Essay 1

Write a five to seven page essay on the following topic:

The critical elements in any social or economic theory are twofold:

  1. A characterization of human beings and their motivation;
  2. A notion of how and why individual human beings come together to form a community or a social system.

Compare and contrast the way in which Ayn Rand answers these questions to the way in which Milton Friedman does so. In particular, what role does the social system play in The Fountainhead? In Capitalism and Freedom?

Essay 2

Write an essay of roughly five to seven pages comparing and contrasting the working lives of three generations in the same family, and explain which of the theories offered in the course seems best to explain the similarities and differences among them.

Students are urged to pick subjects from their own family and to use their own prospective careers as the third generation (recognizing that this part of the material will be speculative). But you may also gather material by interviewing other subjects.

Essay 3

Write an essay of about seven pages comparing and contrasting the role of the individual with the role of groups (or project teams) in economic activity.

In your essay, compare and contrast Roark in The Fountainhead with the characters in The Soul of a New Machine and / or The Double Helix.

Draw as well on your own experience at MIT and in high school or on the job. Where possible, compare and contrast situations where you have worked in groups with those where you worked essentially alone. Was the work in teams more or less efficient, more or less effective? In which types of situations do you think you learned the most?

Can you draw any conclusions about the usefulness of economic theories which are focused on isolated individuals connected to each other through an impersonal market?